Ravens must be all business when they get to New Orleans
In the fourth quarters of the Ravens’ last two playoff games, the older legs finished stronger.
They came back to tie the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter en route to a double-overtime of a divisional playoff game and pulled away from the New England Patriots in last week’s AFC title game.
Relying heavily on Ray Lewis, 37, to quarterback the defense at middle linebacker, the Ravens welcome having an extra week to recover to play in the Super Bowl vs. the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3.
For 16 regular season games, the Ravens averaged 71 defensive snaps. In three playoff victories, they’re averaging 90.
That’s a lot for a defense that just returned Lewis after a 10-game absence because of a torn triceps, lost linebacker Terrell Suggs for 7 games because of Achilles and biceps tears, safety Bernard Pollard (ribs) and Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) for three games each, among others.
In a 28-13 upset of the Patriots, Lewis, Pollard, Ellerbe and safety Ed Reed played all 83 defensive snaps. Lewis and Reed, 34, have played all 267 snaps in the postseason.
The Ravens finished the regular season 10-6, losing four of their last five games, but it was risk taken by coach John Harbaugh in hopes of getting healthier. It worked.
Reed didn't miss a game this season, but he has played with torn cartilage in his shoulder since as early as Week 3. After mixing and matching personnel most of the season, the Ravens are back to normal.
"It was kind of like every week we were kind of designing things and drawing things up in the dirt to try to make sure that we were giving our guys the best chance to succeed and had guys kind of playing a little bit of everywhere," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said recently. "So, it’s kind of nice having guys back and actually having guys line up where maybe they ought to be lined up."